Posted on October 24, 2012
SANDY, Utah — Goalkeeper Leo Moreira demonstrated why he is the No. 2 goalkeeper for Costa Rica as he made eight saves, some of them big ones, to help lift Herediano into the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals in a scoreless tie with Real Salt Lake on a cold, windy and sometimes wet Tuesday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Herediano (10 points) won Group 2 and will compete in the knockout round next year.
RSL (seven) needed a 1-0 victory or to win by two goals to advance and fell short.
RSL was hampered by the absence of three regulars, including team-leading scorer Alvaro Saborio (19 goals in all competitions), who was suspended, and defender Jamison Olave and Ned Grabavoy, who were injured.
“It’s always a little frustrating when you have so many clear chances and you don’t take them, but I think that our guys put all the right effort into it,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said. “Herediano made it very, very difficult in the second half; literally, putting 11 players, almost in their penalty box and it will always be tough to score on a team that plays like that. I was expecting Herediano to come out and play a little more soccer than they did tonight and not muddle up the game like they did.”
Missing such a lethal finisher such as Saborio was too much for the hosts to overcome.
“We know he is an important player and he always seems to be able to make that crucial play in the penalty box to make the difference,” Kreis said. “We typically have someone in the box who can finish for us and when we wanted [Fabian] Espindola and Paulo [Junior] to do a little more of that tonight but that is just not their natural position.”
With the game barely five minutes old, Espindola could not have a better opportunity to put RSL into the lead. He rounded Moreira on the left side of the penalty area before banging a shot off the crossbar. It was just about the only time Moreira made a mistake.
The hosts were in attack-mode from the outset as they sent wave after wave at the Costa Rican, forcing six corner kicks in the first half.
Herediano was intent on keeping a clean sheet and trying something on the counterattack as the visitors brought back as many eight players to defend behind the ball.
Espindola again found himself in the middle of things in the 33rd minute, but Herediano captain Pablo Salazar tackled him with Moreira out of the net. The play resulted in a corner kick.
Junior Alvarado tested RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando, but the veteran had little problems gathering the shot in the 35th minute.
Javier Morales dominated the final six minutes of the first half, sending a rather pedestrian shot straight to Moreira in the 39th minute.
He turned playmaker and flicked to Will Johnson on the left side of the penalty area in the 42nd minute, but Moreira read the play well and stopped the attempt.
Morales tried a shot from distance in the 44th minute, but Moreira managed to get a hand on his blast for his seventh save of the half.
Again it was Morales who put another attempt on goal as his 18-yard shot was easily handled by Moreira in the 56th minute.
“I think sometimes we rushed it, but I feel like we started off aggressive and we slowed the game down when we had to, but we just couldn’t find the back of the net,” midfielder Luis Gil said.
Only a minute later, the visitors almost grabbed the lead as Yendrick Ruiz belted a shot off the left post.
RSL had a last-ditch effort to find the back of the net with consecutive corner kicks in the fourth minute of stoppage time as the hosts pushed Rimando up into the penalty area. The first service went through the box and knocked out of bounds by a Herediano defender. The second effort was cleared by the defense.
“It’s a tough one to take,” RSL captain and midfielder Kyle Beckerman said. “We created enough chances to score four or five tonight, but we didn’t and so we’re not moving on.”
At least not in the CCL, but the team must now prepare for the Major League Soccer playoffs.
Photo: Fabian Espindola could have given RSL the lead in the fifth minute, but his shot hit the crossbar. Andy Mead/YCJ
Categories: Central America, Champions League, Costa Rica, North America, U.S.A.
Tags: CONCACAF Champions League, Fabian Espindola, Herediano, Javier Morales, Leo Moreira, Nick Rimando, Real Salt Lake